Thursday, April 30, 2009

What do you know about that!

Oh, that Norville Barnes... Lately I thought to review one of my underappreciated favorite movies, "The Hudsucker Proxy," which stars Tim Robbins (who plays the precious Norville), Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Newman. It's about a hapless new college graduate who at once becomes the president of the company that he joins, first as a mail clerk. It's all part of a scam.

Gosh, the movie's clever! I love it for the lines (Norville's "you know, for kids!" when pitching the hula hoop), and especially the fast-talking career girl reporter, Amy Archer (played by Leigh), who's out to get poor Norville. She's a vision of loveliness with her red polished nails and lipsticked mouth--but, what comes out of that mouth! "Is this guy from Chumpsville? Ha! I even pulled the old mother routine."

Let's look at Autumn's fashion shoot through the lens of "The Hudsucker Proxy:"

Norville Barnes: Just got hired today.
Ancient Sorter: Terrific.
Norville Barnes: You know, entry level.
Ancient Sorter: Tell me about it.
Norville Barnes: But I've got big ideas.
Ancient Sorter: I'm sure you do.
Norville Barnes: For instance, take a look at this sweet baby.
[Shows a drawn circle on a piece of paper]
Norville Barnes: I developed it myself. Yessirie, this is my big ticket upstairs. You know, for kids.

Norville Barnes: Well, can I at least call you deer?

Buzz the Elevator Operator: Hiya, buddy, my name's Buzz. I got the fuzz I make the elevator do what she does.

Amy Archer: Norville, there's something I have to tell you. You see, I'm not really a secretary.
Norville Barnes: I know that, Amy.
Amy Archer: You do!?
Norville Barnes: I understand that you're not very skilled yet in the secretarial arts. I'm not that skilled as president. Oh sure, I put up a big front but not everyone's buying it.

But, it's just a movie--though in the grand old style!

As it happens, my sister Autumn is reliving old Hollywood this weekend at one of UCLA's themed dances at Powell Library. This Saturday, she will dance swing, tango, the cha-cha, the foxtrot, the polka, as well as others, at the "Hollywood Movie Magic Ball!" Sounds like fun!

And, by the way, if you love the American-esque expressions of this post, you might want to check-out a new book called I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech, by Ralph Keyes. I ordered the book at my library and can't wait until it arrives!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Story corp

Hello there!

Let’s talk a bit about stories.

Recently I was driving along and listening to National Public Radio (what do you listen to when you’re in the car? For me, it’s KCRW, the classical music station, or oldies—because, well, everyone could use some Motown), when there was a special feature by the StoryCorps.

A man from New York was talking about how he thought that he was a failure for much of his life, because he had not done anything great, like becoming the President of the United States. He “only” owned three second-day bread stores. Then, it happened that he discovered eating competitions, and the first contest that he won was with matzo ball soup. For this feat, he got to shake the hand of the mayor of New York! Success at last for this New Yorker!

Such a delightful story reminded me of my love of oral histories, and that I had considered applying for a position with the StoryCorps upon finishing library school. Who wouldn’t want to listen to people’s stories all day? If only I was willing to move away from my beloved Los Angeles to live near the organization’s headquarters in Brooklyn!

Since that one-time car time encounter, I’ve been searching out other personal narratives, and you should know that my library has a “Local History Room,” which features a project of recording and transcribing oral histories. Still, some of the best stories that I have read lately are on

Another article recently put forth the analysis that Americans currently live not in a culture of storytelling, but of mere explanation—which I found to be very interesting indeed. Sad too, because I feel that I live for stories in their many forms.

Before I close, I would like to say that if you feel the same way, I recommend that you come to my library’s “Crafter’s Circle” held on the third Tuesday of every month, and not just for the neat paper crafts that we make sometimes! (Last month’s activity was a folded photo album that’s perfect for putting in your pocket or purse.) But more important, this group is a gathering of older ladies who like to tell stories!

Lastly, as I’ve suggested before, clothes and photographs have the power to tell stories—what do you think is the story behind these fashion shots of my sister Autumn? You can comment with haiku-like swiftness if you like!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009

When in doubt

As a librarian, I have a world of information constantly at my ready, and as with most jobs, there are some recurring tasks. My “tasks” often come in the form of patrons’ questions that I answer to the best of my ability. People have remarked that I have an amazing recall for information (it all has to do with location and the Dewey decimal system!), but even I can slip-up—which is one reason that I “look it up” whenever I’m not completely certain.

I was wondering last night where my sister might have gotten that wink and expression in the last picture of the previous post? It looks very anime in style, and I remembered that my sister is a longtime fan of the art book for the Japanese comic books, or manga, for Marmalade Boy.

Anyway, here are the findings of my research:

Was the winking girl illustration a direct inspiration for Autumn? We might never know…

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Love letter to Japan

Dear Japan,

With all due respect, my sister Autumn enjoys imagining herself as one of your schoolgirls, heading down to Arcadia’s Genki Living for a crepe filled with strawberries and cream. She likes the fun atmosphere of this cafe. She says that the (indoor!) park benches and red telephone booth remind her of the animated films of Hiyao Miyazaki “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” to name two magical movies), whose specialty seems to be beautifully fusing the styles of East and West. Autumn might be too shy to admit her admiration of Japanese pop songs—perhaps because she does not know Japanese—so I will leave you with The Bird and the Bee’s sung affection for your country, “Love Letter to Japan.” (Please turn the sound way up.)


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring songs

Most everyone knows the poem where the poet Wordsworth, reclining on his sofa, remembers the yellow flowers that he saw earlier in the day. “Emotion recollected in tranquility” is the idea here, and William Wordsworth’s philosophy of poetry. But, the reason that I like the poem “I wandered lonely as a cloud” is because it makes me feel “spring-like.”

Doesn’t Autumn look like a girl Wordsworth? (The daffodils are compliments of the great bins of blossoms now available at the local Trader Joe’s market.)

For your reading pleasure, here’s a portion of The Prelude by Wordsworth, edited to be part of his “Was It for This” section by relative Jonathan Wordsworth:

For this in springtime, when on southern banks
The shining sun had from his knot of leaves
Decoyed the primrose flower, and when the vales
And woods were warm, was I a rover then
In the high places, on the lonely peaks,
Among the mountains and the winds?

(I was there in England once. And, I wandered. And then it was that I became a librarian.)